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Posts Tagged ‘Much Ado about Nothing’

Being so pleased with the stage and auditorium evolved from the Swan and Courtyard Theatres which has resulted in our new brilliant thrust style stage and one room space at the RST, we were a bit unsure of how we would re-act to our first proscenium arch theatre event for quite some time.

Armed with the knowledge that David Tennant was such a good Hamlet at The Courtyard we went on an away day to London. The Wyndham’s in the middle of Theatre-land is beautifully maintained and has a charming atmosphere. But, the first thing that struck us was the uncomfortable seats. They were certainly not as comfortable, roomy or with as much leg room as the RST- we had top class seats mind you and really those who have problems with some of the narrower seats at the RST should just visit another theatre like we did and then appreciate the RST version.

We did, however, enjoy the production albeit there is no doubt about it, in our minds, that it would have been better if it had been carried out by an RSC Ensemble. There is non-stop action and the fun factor was nearly as good as at Stratford. It’s hard to miss the sexual aspects of the play and Tennant and Tate do a fine job leaving no-one in any doubt regarding the double meanings. David Tennant was excellent and clearly enjoyed carrying out slapstick. However, he alone appeared to be in tune with the audience – probably as a result of his tenure with the RSC. Catherine Tate was quite good in parts, very funny but not always our ideal for the part of Beatrice.

The Director used 1980s Gibraltar for the setting. It was typical of the British military presence, on the Rock, where partying was the norm. With this in mind it helped in the trickery regarding Benedick and Beatrice. Perhaps the remaining class differences in British society are most evident within the military and the superb Navy uniforms were used to great effect. The Director, Josie Rourke made a change to the original players by giving Leonato a wife instead of a brother. Very well staged was the pre wedding party where Margaret (wearing Hero’s wig) has a vivid and noisy sex scene with Borachio which left little to the imagination.

One great strength of the production was that the non stop action was helped by the stage which kept revolving. There was a wonderful scene where decorators were working and it was not clear why. Suddenly it was obvious as later Tennant was covered in paint and Tate was hoisted up on a pulley. We still could not help thinking that Shakespeare is by far better if one uses the one room auditorium and a thrust stage.  Yes it was worth going to watch and very enjoyable but we left so glad that the RST and Swan Theatres are walking distances away from our house.

David and Ingrid Stevens

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As we celebrate this special 50th anniversary year, it is significant that the opening production at the now RST on 4th April 1961 was MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING directed by Michael Langham who has just died at the age of 91.

Michael had been a director the previous year when Peter Hall decided that his first season as Artistic Director would include a number of the Comedies and his play was to be THE MERCHANT OF VENICE. Dorothy Tutin played Portia and the young Peter O’Toole played Shylock (prior to becoming better known as Lawrence of Arabia).

It was another comedy which Michael Langham was invited to direct the following season – MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING -an important play in the history of theatre at Stratford as it was the first to open the 1879 theatre. Then Beatrice and Benedick were played by Helen Faucit and Barry Sullivan. Fifty years ago, the roles were taken by Geraldine McEwan and a Canadian actor making his debut at Stratford – Christopher Plummer.

Plummer went on to play Richard III that season and subsequently followed O’Toole onto the wide screen, becoming known worldwide for his performance as Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music. His first big break had been in his native Canada in 1956 when Michael Langham (at the invitation of Tyrone Guthrie) was Artistic Director for the Stratford Ontario Festival.

During his opening season, Langham demonstrated his approach to Shakespeare’s text by treating it as “living thought” and he cast the young Christopher Plummer in Henry V. Years later, Plummer said he owed his career to this visiting Englishman who was at the helm in Ontario from 1956 to 1967. What is further significant is that not only was Michael Langham invited by Peter Hall to direct during the early work of the RSC, but that during his time in Canada he introduced a thrust stage at Stratford Ontario.

As we now celebrate our new thrust stage at Stratford -upon -Avon, surely Michael Langham’s talents will also be remembered as we recall our Ghosts in the Wall and proudly include those actors /directors/benefactors of the past who have made possible our present and future in this home town of Shakespeare .

 Tony Boyd-Williams

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